Weight loss and weight management are drilled into the lives of people with type 2 diabetes and those at high risk for developing the disease. If losing weight was easy, we wouldn’t have a nationwide obesity problem.
Dr. Deneen Vojta, chief clinical officer of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance at UnitedHealth Group, says many people who have experienced long-term success at keeping weight off for five years or more in the National Weight Control Registry do three things.
1. They weigh themselves frequently.
“They weigh themselves almost every day so they know when they start going off track regaining weight,” said Dr. Vojta. “They weigh themselves not in a spirit of judgment, but to say ‘isn’t that interesting?’ They can see four days in a row if they’re gaining a pound, see that’s a pattern and if so, what they need to change in their life to stop the trend.”
Dr. Vojta says don’t wait for a pair of pants to stop fitting before you take action. She says frequent weigh-ins help prevent a problem before too much ground is lost or weight is gained.
2. They walk every day.
Walking or participating in easy activities will help you reach the weekly goal of 150-175 minutes of activity. Dr. Vojta says don’t concentrate on the big number, but on daily track-able numbers. She recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise each day, which you can break up into 10-minute chunks.
Dr. Vojta points out a few tricks to working activity into your everyday life. “Want to start losing weight? Buy a dog, go take it for a walk every day. If someone tells me ‘I stopped walking, because it started to rain,’ I say buy a raincoat. Most people can walk. Park far away in the parking lot. Take the stairs. It all adds up.”
Make it easy and something you can do every day, says Dr. Vojta. “The simpler the better. If you try to do something that is a big change, like train for a marathon, it’s going to get very old very quickly.”
Here is an illustration on how you might fit in 30 minutes of exercise each day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends talking to your doctor about a safe exercise program. Certain conditions like high blood pressure or eye or foot problems may play a role in your plan.
3. They use meal replacements.
“Everybody underestimates the calories they eat,” says Dr. Vojta. “The reality is if you use a meal replacement that is defined, this food item has 400 calories, and if you do that once or twice a day, it will be easier to lose weight.”
Meal replacements, like shakes and nutrition bars, help people reduce the need to think about what to eat during the day and remove the need for portion control according to Look AHEAD, a National Institutes of Health sponsored study released in July 2013.
Shakes and bars provide a mixture of protein, carbs and fat with added vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are also easy to transport as well as convenient to plan and clean up.
Dr. Vojta says you should also consider frozen meals too. “There is the national push away from processed foods. There’s the push for natural and organic. The reality is processed is okay. Take frozen spinach, it’s less expensive, healthy and a great part of a shake.”
The CDC offers advice on healthy food choices and what foods to eat more of or avoid as well as resources for making a diabetes meal plan.